Sunday, March 20, 2011

I think I’m finally at a place where I feel comfortable sharing with you, what’s been going on in my world since this past Thanksgiving. It’s been one of the hardest seasons of my life. I don’t like to share these kinds of things with others because it makes me feel very vulnerable. This is part of my healing process. It’s okay to let people see the hard stuff. Then they can see the amazing too.

For those of you that don’t know, Jason’s primary employer let him go in November of 2009. He was an outside salesperson to Plumbers and Excavators. The economy hit these professions so hard that Jason was having a hard time meeting the sales goals. Jason was also working a second job at the time. He ran a pizza route for Domino’s. The economy was also taking its toll on Domino’s. They had cut his hours back considerably. From our point of view it was starting to cost us money for Jason to work there. When Jason’s primary employer let him go, Jason asked Domino’s if they could give him more hours. They couldn’t so we felt he had to quit because we didn’t have the first income to cover any more vehicle expenses that may be incurred.

By December, after Jason was awarded unemployment benefits, he decided to go back to school. He enrolled in the Government’s TUI program. That stands for training unemployed individuals. Under this program, Jason could go to school full time, receive unemployment benefits and not have to look for work for two years. We felt like we were finally headed in the right direction. If you’ll allow me to brag, Jason’s been kickin’ it in school. He’s been on the Dean’s List and has not had lower than a 3.6 GPA the entire time. I’m so proud of him. Anyway. . .

In November of 2010 the Unemployment Department decided to suspend Jason’s unemployment for review because he had been on it for a year. We were told we would probably start receiving benefits again in about 3 weeks. It put a strain on us, but nothing we couldn’t handle. By January, we still hadn’t received benefits. We were told that they didn’t know Jason had quit Domino’s and Jason wasn’t allowed to quit a job, so we should have never received benefits. They needed us to prove that the job was costing us more than Jason was making before they could give us benefits again. We absolutely could prove it and did. However, we didn’t do it according to their calculations. In the end they decided Jason made $15/wk and so had no reason to quit working at Dominos. We were horrified and shocked.

Jason had told them he quit Dominos. We had even reported this on the weekly claim system online. To our surprise, their system wasn’t showing this. We asked about notes from Jason’s conversation with the fact finder back in November of 2009; the one he told he had quit Dominos. To our horror the fact finder didn’t put that in the notes. What?!?!?! How could this be?

Through this whole nightmare we found out that Jason could have continued working at Domino’s making $15/wk and still received the same amount of unemployment benefits that he was receiving. In fact, he could have been making as much as $88/wk before it would have affected the amount of unemployment he received. This was news to us. Why is this an issue then? Why should Jason not receive anything now because he quit a $15/wk job? I was baffled, but that wasn’t the end.

They denied Jason’s benefits back to November 2009. This meant that all the benefits he had received were now considered an overpayment. They sent us a bill for over $26,000. Of course we appealed, but it was found that Jason had disposable income and so had no reason to quit the job. The original denial was upheld.

After receiving the denial, we received a letter from an investigator. They were investigating Jason for Criminal Intent or Willfully Withholding. What?!?!?! Are you kidding me? We filled out their questionnaire and sent in a long letter with a timeline and explanation. We received a letter last week and the conclusion is that Jason “willfully withheld information in order to receive benefits.” He was disqualified from receiving benefits for 52 weeks and fined 15%. We now owe the State of Oregon over $30,000!

I know, you’re jaw is dropping. It is a nightmare and we’re not sure how we’re going to handle that kind of bill, but I want to tell you about the incredible kindness of people during this trial. People who know us and love us have been very gracious and extremely generous. Our landlord was incredibly understanding and gracious. Our rent and other bills were covered both months by gifts from friends and family. My sister offered us a place to live. We moved in with her the first of February. All 5 of us are living in the master bedroom, but even that has not been as bad as we had imagined it would be. I had several friends come over and work tirelessly with me to clean and get us moved. We couldn’t have made it through all of this without our family and friends.

The struggle to keep moving forward with this weight loss journey has been like climbing Mt. Everest. I have fought and clawed my way through the last several months. I am almost to the top and I’m feeling amazing. We still have no idea how we are going to pay the State of Oregon back. We have to keep it from turning into a Civil Action Lawsuit because Jason is pursuing a Law Enforcement career. He can’t have anything like this on his record. We are already concerned about the fact that they are saying he “willfully misrepresented.” It feels criminal that they can do this to us. We were honest through the whole thing and it doesn’t matter. We are holding our heads high and praying for continued provision and protection.

For every horrible thing that’s happened to us over the past year and a half something wonderful has happened. My faith has been shaken and restored many times. I can’t help but believe that God will help us with this one too. It is unjust, but from what I read in scripture and what I’ve experience so far in my life, these are the moments God shines. He has brought us peace when we shouldn’t have had any. He has put us on people’s hearts. He has comforted us. He has provided for us. He has helped us be creative. He has loved us. . . he still LOVES us.

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